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Standing an imposing 20in (51cm) high, it displays a number of different glassmaking techniques, using pate-de-verre to create the mixture of colours and wheel cutting to produce the naturalistic passion flower blooms and an acid etched verse by Marceline Desbordes Valmore.

Highlighted in gilt, it reads O vie, O fleur d'orage, O menace, O mystere, O songe aveugle et beau.

Condition Issues

The Sutton Coldfield vendors understood it had been acquired by a descendant in 1900 but had little idea of its significance. It had not been deemed a great catastrophe when, around 30 years ago, the vase had fallen from a windowsill and broken cleanly in two.

This damage had dampened expectations. Although it appeared with a full catalogue description (mention was made of a similar vase with a Valmore poem illustrated in the 1998 book Emile Gallé by Philippe Garner) the estimate was pitched at a modest £600-800.

In fact, with bidders from France, Switzerland and the UK, auctioneer Charles Hanson was instructed to start bidding at £15,000 at the auction on October 26.

Some minutes later, a London-based collector in the room won it at £39,000 - later suggesting it might have made well over £150,000 had it been in perfect condition.